The Belfast businessman has expressed concerns for clinically vulnerable people, including his wife, in further easing coronavirus restrictions.
Tattoo artist Richard Montgomery has spoken out after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that those who have tested positive for the coronavirus will not be legally required to isolate since last Thursday and free universal testing in England will end on April 1.
While Health Minister Robin Swann said no decision had been made to test any changes here, following in the footsteps of Richard, who runs the Killer Bee Tattoo studio on Lisburn Road, he fears a similar move could happen.
As a close service, 33-year-old Richard is particularly concerned about the possible consequences if the request for self-isolation ends here.
His wife, Rachel, 36, has multiple sclerosis (MS) and is therefore considered vulnerable.
“It really has to be isolated, but it’s impossible to do if we want to try to live a normal life,” Richard told Belfast Live.
“We were a bit surprised by Boris Johnson’s announcement in Northern Ireland last week that we usually fall behind England by a few weeks, so we wonder when that will happen to us.
He explained: “I opened a new tattoo shop last year, and since we are a close contact service, any changes in self-isolation here would greatly affect my life, especially if we have people walking in our doors with Covid and they are not isolated.” . .
“We try to get our clients to be honest with us and tell us if they’re bad so they can reclaim their history. I know we, along with other tattoo artists, are in a situation where we’re on our own. Booked for months.”
“Our fear is that people will risk exposing themselves to their dates, even if they have Covid and spread it.”
Richard added: “Obviously, in the direction of my work, when I tattoo someone, I’m close to them, so with any new, more contagious option, if they have Covid, they’re more likely to get it. And spread it to other users, staff, and my family.”
“They may think that just because they are fine, everyone will be, but unfortunately it is not that simple and weak people like my wife are in danger.
“Sure, I understand we need to move forward when it comes to Covid, but I’m concerned about doing it too soon and it has potential consequences,” he added.
Robin Swann said his department was “seriously studying” the Covid-19 coexistence plan issued in England last week.
Under the strategy, those who test positive for Covid-19 would still be advised to stay at home for at least five days, but would not be required by law to have plans subject to parliamentary approval.
Mr. Swan said no decision has been made about any changes to be made here for testing and tracing.
He added: “My administration continues to review all aspects of Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 testing and qualification program to ensure it is proportionate and effective.”
Mr Swan said any policy changes in Northern Ireland would be communicated to the latest “clinical and scientific advice given the situation”.
“Our highest priority for testing includes making sure it is a priority for those who need it most,” he said.
“It is also essential to have adequate contingency planning in place, with flexible testing capabilities that can be used quickly to respond to future options or seasonal increases.”